“Diabetes is a major health concern for everyone,” said LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
The death rate for diabetes has continued to grow since 1987, while the death rates from heart disease, stroke and cancer have declined.
The Louisiana Office of Public Health reports that approximately 10.2 percent of Louisiana residents are estimated to have been diagnosed with diabetes by a physician. That’s more than 2 percent higher than the national rate of 8 percent.
Diabetes complications include heart disease, blindness, kidney disease, stroke and amputations, Reames explained, noting, “Keeping blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol in control can reduce the risk for heart attack or stroke.”
The nutritionist pointed out that the risk for diabetes increases with age, excessive weight gain or inactivity. Diabetes is more common in African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“Healthy eating is important for managing diabetes,” Reames said. She recommended several tips for making healthful food choices.
– Eat lots of vegetables and fruits. Try picking from the rainbow of colors available to maximize variety. Eat nonstarchy vegetables such as spinach, carrots, broccoli or green beans with meals.
– Choose whole grain foods over processed grain products. Try brown rice with stir-fry or whole wheat spaghetti with pasta sauce.
– Include dried beans (like kidney or pinto beans) and lentils in meals.
– Include fish in meals two or three times a week.
– Choose lean meats like cuts of beef and pork that end in "loin" such as pork loin and sirloin.
– Remove the skin from chicken and turkey.
– Choose nonfat dairy such as skim milk, nonfat yogurt and nonfat cheese.
– Choose water and calorie-free "diet" drinks instead of regular soda, fruit punch, sweet tea and other sugar-sweetened drinks.
– Choose liquid oils for cooking instead of solid fats that can be high in saturated and trans fats. Remember that fats are high in calories. If you're trying to lose weight, watch your portion sizes of added fats.
– Cut back on high-calorie snack foods and desserts like chips, cookies, cakes and full-fat ice cream.
– Watch portion sizes. Eating too much of even healthful foods can lead to weight gain.
The LSU AgCenter’s Diabetes Education Awareness Recommendations (DEAR) program and Smart Portions Healthy Weight Program provide information on healthful eating, physical activity recommendations and lifestyle habits. For information about these programs or about eating healthfully using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPyramid, contact the LSU AgCenter extension agent in your parish.
For related nutrition topics, click on the Food and Health link on the LSU AgCenter home page at www.lsuagcenter.com.